America’s tax code is a labyrinth of transfers, loopholes and deductions — a place where tax lawyers and accountants reign supreme. But it also encourages economic distortions and obstructs the free movement of capital.
Put simply, it’s been a long time since the federal tax code did what it’s supposed to do — efficiently raise funds for the federal government.
1 Lower Corporate Tax Rates
Britain Horsemeat Burger King
(Companies like Burger are moving their headquarters out of the U.S. due to high corporate tax rates)
Even after deductions are taken into account, effective state and federal corporate taxes in the U.S. are among the world’s highest. For a long time, these taxes were economically and politically sustainable. American companies were the world’s envy, providing goods and services with a quality and affordability that few others could. Companies were also forced by necessity to operate close to reliable customer bases. Transportation infrastructure and the lack of a digital economy restrained outward investment.
But then globalization came and grew. And today, global competition is far fiercer. While that’s good for American consumers — lower prices mean more savings — American companies are under pressure.
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Often in order to relieve that pressure, U.S. companies relocate anywhere they can reduce costs. Many of our foreign competitors attract American businesses with lower corporate rates of their own. Given this reality, the United States would do well to slash the corporate income tax rate.
Consider the United Kingdom, where the corporate tax rate is currently 20 percent and will fall to 18 percent over the next five years. Facing sky-high corporate tax rates at home, American companies are going to find it tougher to compete .
Fortunately, even if Congress fails to enact reform, states are acting. As I’ve noted, the difference in economic success between California’s high-tax, high-regulation economy and Texas’s low-tax, low-regulation economy is profound. It’s a lesson to which many other state governments are paying heed.
2 Remove the State and Local Tax Deduction
Welcome to Texas road sign.
(Low-tax states like Texas have experience greater economic growth than high-tax states like California)
We need to eliminate most deductions and loopholes, and thereby reduce federal tax rates. These reforms should include ending state and local tax deductions. Why? Because those deductions treat taxpayers from lower-tax states unfairly compared to taxpayers from higher-tax states. As a Mercatus Center study explained in 2014: “The states with the lowest state and local tax deductions (Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota) claim deductions amounting to less than two percent of their adjusted gross income, while the highest tax states (New York and New Jersey) claim over nine percent of their adjusted gross income.”
This injustice is absurd. But it also subsidizes big government liberalism at the state level. After all, were Californians or New Yorkers no longer able to deduct state and local taxes from their federal returns, their amenability to bloated government would evaporate as their effective tax rates soared.
3 Introduce Tax Expenditure Notices
A big problem with the U.S. tax system is the fact that many taxpayers don’t know where their money is going. We send off our tax forms and then — flash! — the money is out of our accounts and the deficit remains.
This issue is resolvable. Were taxpayers shown where the federal government spends their money, civic scrutiny of government spending would likely increase. The U.K. offers another good example here. Last year, the British government sent income taxpayers a letter outlining where their taxes were being spent. Specifically, the letter explained how nearly 25 percent of tax revenue is allocated to the national welfare system. Ultimately, that fact-based approach helped Prime Minister David Cameron advance his welfare reforms.
While there was a distinct political agenda behind the letter campaign, it was hard for the left to rebuke. How do you tell a taxpayer that he or she doesn’t have the right to know where his money is really going? Cameron’s policy paid off. In May, his Conservative government was re-elected with its first parliamentary majority in 23 years.